Makes 6 servings | Takes 35 mins 

The perfect recipe for a cool fall or spring evening! You can use gluten-free or vegan pasta as well.

I came up with this recipe one rainy fall evening. We were looking for comfort food, something that came together quickly and would “stick to our bones.” Well, comfort food this certainly is and it turned out to be one of the biggest hits of all the recipes I’ve created, adored by adults, kids, toddlers and teenagers alike! This pasta dish makes a huge pot and we always enjoy the leftovers—straight from the fridge or warmed up—the next day. Traditional Bolognese is a meat-based sauce, but my version uses lentils for a high-fibre, plant-based twist. The “secret” ingredient—tahini—gives it an unexpected, but delicious, creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced 
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ to ¾ tsp fine sea salt, to taste
  • 16 oz (450 g) cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, or to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil, or to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 14 oz (400 g) fusilli pasta (about 6 ½ cups uncooked pasta)
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chunky marinara sauce
  • 1 (14oz/398 mL) can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups (375 mL) cooked lentils
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) jarred roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp “runny” tahini (see Tip)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes 

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

2. In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and stir. Sauté for four to five minutes, until the onion is softened.

3. Stir in the mushrooms, oregano, basil and thyme and cook for seven to eight minutes over medium-high heat, until most of the water cooks off.

4. When the water for the pasta boils add the pasta and cook until al dente, following package directions.

5. Into the pot with the mushrooms, stir in the marinara sauce, lentils, roasted red pepper and tahini until combined. Make sure you stir well to fully incorporate the tahini. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for a few more minutes.

6. Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water to halt the cooking process. Stir the pasta into the lentil-veggie mixture until thoroughly combined. Taste and season with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Heat for a couple of minutes or until heated throughout. Serve and enjoy!

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. The leftovers are even delicious chilled, straight from the fridge! You can also freeze the cooled pasta in an airtight container or a freezer-safe zip-top bag with the air pressed out for two to three weeks. After thawing, add a splash of marinara and seasonings to the pasta while reheating to freshen it up.

TIPS:

I recommend using a “runny” tahini so it easily mixes into the pasta. Avoid using the firm and dry tahini you often find at the bottom of a jar. To save on prep time, you can buy pre-sliced mushrooms. Make it gluten-free. Use gluten-free pasta. Make it kid-friendly. Reduce the mushrooms by half and chop them very small (think smaller than pea size) so they disappear into the pasta. The mushrooms will be undetectable, but your meal will still retain its immune-boosting benefits!

Nutritional value (per serving): Calories 557; Carbs 99g; Fat 10g; Protein: 21g

More Inspiration: Why not try these easy to make vegetarian dumplings as an appetizer!

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